Senators are asking about the national government’s alleged preference for the vaccine of Chinese firm Sinovac for the rollout of its immunization program against COVID-19.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Monday raised the government’s reported preference for Sinovac while several local government units (LGUs) have started entering into agreements with other pharmaceutical firms.
“Bakit ang pinipili nila — may nabalitaan ako, ewan ko kung totoo ‘yon — balita ko pinili na ‘yong Sinovac…Bakit ‘yun? (Why are they choosing — I have heard reports, to verify it — that they reportedly have chosen the Sinovac. Why?),” Sotto said in an interview over radio DZBB.
“Tanungin natin bakit ‘yun, anong efficacy n’un (Let’s ask them why, what is the efficacy of their vaccine). Bakit ‘yong mga LGUs ang kinakausap AztraZeneca (Why are LGUs choosing to talk to AztraZeneca)?” he added.
The Senate Committee of the Whole has started its inquiry on the government’s COVID-19 immunization program which will also raise the delays in the Philippines’ procurement of coronavirus vaccines.
“Bakit hanggang ngayon wala pa tayo (Why don’t we have the vaccine until now)?” he asked, noting that over 20 countries have begun inoculating their population.
Senator Panfilo Lacson had earlier questioned what he believed was a preference for Sinovac, recalling the Health Secretary Francisco Duque’s belated responses and actions on the negotiations with Pfizer and Sinopharm last year.
“Are they waiting for a particular brand?” Lacson said in Filipino. “What’s special about Sinovac? Why does it appear that we are waiting for it?”
Senator Joel Villanueva also echoed this concern, saying during the hearing that even doctors doubted the efficacy of Sinovac’s product and would refuse to be injected with it.
Sotto, in his opening statement, also noted that “the slow approval of those in charge in the government may have prompted some to acquire the vaccines sans the required authority from the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).”
The Senate chief said that with the hearing, “the committee and the people will be well-informed of what lies ahead in further containing this alarming pandemic.”
“However, we can only attain this objective only if we have a well-coordinated, fully-planned, and a systematic distribution of vaccine in the country,” he pointed out, saying the country should prevent a repeat of the “inadequate” handling of the COVID-19 pandemic that led to an outbreak and increase in cases last year.